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Leeds star Ezgjan Alioski had to overcome poverty to become a professional football – but now speaks six languages.
The North Macedonia winger will be called on in his country’s huge task to attempt to stay in Euro 2020 by beating qualified side Holland.
He scored a first-ever goal at a major tournament by scoring at the save from his own penalty in the 2-1 loss to Ukraine.
Alioski came into the tournament after an impressive season at Elland Road, scoring three goals and making three assists in his debut Premier League season.
And the year marks the summit of an astonishing climb the 29-year-old has had to make to play professional football.
His career started at 11-years-old when he joined Swiss side Young Boys’ academy in 2003, working his way up before getting a chance in the U23s seven years later.
After scoring four goals in 57 appearances from left-back, though, he was shown the door at the club.
Alioski told The Sun: “Berne told me I wasn't good enough for professional football – after I'd spent 10 years in their academy.
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"I was very sad and disappointed. Most people would have chosen to do something else, but I refused to be talked out of my dream.”
While the winger was able to get an opportunity at a second-tier Swiss side, he was facing the prospect of poverty.
But he got help from family, adding: "I trained with my dad and brother, and luckily FC Schaffhausen – then in the Swiss third division – gave me a chance.
"I wasn't able to live on what the club paid me. My parents had to support me.
"They rented a small flat in Schaffhausen for me, and got me a little car so I could go to and from training.”
After three years at Schaffhausen, a stunning 2016/17 season with Lugano brought 16 goals in 35 appearances to pique the interest of Leeds where he has never looked back.
But Alioski picked up several lessons along the way, telling the Whites’ website he speaks “German, Italian, English, Albanian, Macedonian, French and a little Spanish”.
Fans will be hoping that the 29-year-old can step up once again against one of the favourites for Euro 2020.
- Leeds United FC
- Euro 2020
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